Posted by: Jennifer Sage | February 9, 2008

Setting Goals – why New Year’s resolutions don’t work

In order to Reach Your Peak, you must learn to set goals to become a better you. But how do you do that in a way that ensures that you will adhere to your goals?

It’s February 9th, 2008.  By now you should realize that New Year’s Resolutions do not work, because if you’re like 99% of the people who made them at 11:59 p.m. on Dec 31, 2007 by now you’ve long forgotten them or deliberately threw them in the trash. Why? Because they are not backed by belief or the right mental preparation.  They are usually conscious statements to overcome a perceived weakness, such as not drinking anymore (or as much), losing weight, watching less tv, spending more time with family, etc. Besides, there is a big difference between wanting something, and being prepared to receive it. 

First of all, most people fail at resolutions because they expect to fail. They are conditioned to believe that they won’t achieve this goal because they never have before, so they believe they won’t work and they just run through the motions of setting them and hoping they will work.  Hope won’t get you where you want to be; it has to be supported by a subconscious belief and inspired action.

Secondly, we are conditioned to remain at the same weight, income level or in the same mediocre relationship, due to the habits we’ve acquired and reinforced over the years. It’s like having an internal thermostat that will always bring us back to our current situation, even if it’s not desirable. Everyone is challenged when it comes to growing beyond our current “set-point” because moving outside of your comfort zone, even if it will improve your finances, relationships or health, is often more difficult than the perceived benefit (at least, according to your subconscious mind, which prefers homeostasis, even a mundane inferior one).    

Will-power or resolve is the domain of the conscious mind, which only controls about 2-4 percent of you day-to-day actions and perceptions. In order to be successful, you must change the underlying beliefs that control your everyday actions, which is the domain of your subconscious mind, about 96% of the brain.  If you don’t like your current situation in life, then you must break from your old patterns of thinking and believing, and take aim at the conditioning that is at the source of these patterns.  Your underlying behavior and beliefs play such a large role in your decisions that pure willpower can hardly be expected to trump them.

John Assaraf speaks about the “psychocybernetic trigger” in your brain, called the amygdala, which has tremendous power over your perceptions and actions.  It acts like a thermostat in your subconscious, and detects any efforts to change your current situation. It senses potential and real stress and orders the release of neurotransmitters in response to the stressor, causing you anxiety, doubt, and fear. When most people feel this anxiety, they then decide not to pursue that path of change, even if it’s something they said they really wanted. The amygdala metaphorically pats itself on the back for a job well done.

Why does it do that? In short, it doesn’t like change. When you make an effort to change something, it alerts you and fools you to thinking that the change is not worth the effort, causing you to doubt or have fear over what you are trying to do.  It has an evolutionary purpose, to keep early man from venturing into that scary open space in the forest to avoid being eaten by a wild animal. Otherwise, without the triggers for extra caution, we might have been wiped out as a species.  But in today’s world, it’s what holds you back from really pursuing your goals by secreting those pesky neurotransmitters to “scare” you into submission.

I like to think of it as the evil “devil” on your shoulder whispering in your ear every time you are about to move beyond your comfort zone for your greater good, and convinces you to return to your old patterns of behavior. Rationalizing is its favorite game, and as John Assaraf says, rationalize means “rational lies”. Here are some examples of “rational lies” it might whisper in your ear:

  • Boy, some chips and salsa sound real good right now.  Forget those carrots and celery, how fun is that?  Don’t you prefer that salty crispy fatty taste?
  • That couch and remote look awful comfy right now.  Isn’t there a game on?  How about a Sex in the City rerun?  Who cares if you’ve seen it before!
  • Why go to the gym when you might have to ‘sweat’?  Yuck!  Too much effort; stay home! It’s safer here!
  • You say you want to do a what?? A triathlon? You might get hurt, or worse, might have to give up some of that tv time!  Better to not bother afterall.
  • Ask her out?? What if you say something dumb, like you always do? 
  • Whaddaya mean you want to take on more responsibilities at work? Don’t you know people don’t like you much? What if you screw up like last time?
  • They told you if you make more sales calls you’ll make more money?? That means you have to talk to people – ah man!  Why do that, when you can search the internet for cool Youtube videos instead!
  • $40,000 a year doesn’t look so bad afterall…you might have to actually do some work if you want to make that $100,000 this year.  Too scary! I got better things to tell you to do.
  • Spend more time with family? That means you’ll have to actually listen to your mother-in-law!  No way.  Let’s think of an excuse not to go…
 
And so all your best intentions go down the drain, destined to fail from the very first moment you stated your resolution. Hence, you repeat the same results over and over and over, because you haven’t changed the thought patterns and behavioral patterns that govern them. It’s like that old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
 
Both your conscious mind and subconscious mind must be in alignment if change is going to take place, and usually there is a tug-of-war between the two. The conscious mind makes a statement, “I want to change this about myself.”  But the body says (ruled by the subconscious), “heck no.  You haven’t trained me to be that way – you’ve trained me to be like this.”  
 
If you want to truly make permanent changes in your life, you must first retrain your subconscious mind and create different mental images of your body and your health, your financial situation, your relationships, and any other area you would like to see changes. It takes about 15-30 minutes a day of mental retraining, and studies have shown (including a study by NASA) that it takes a minimum of 30 days to break subconscious patterns.  
 
What does mental retraining consist of?
First determine your goal, and be very clear about what it is you want.  My next post will talk about the specifics of goal setting, but for now, just think of having clarity of vision. 
 
What do you want? Better health? More money? A physical challenge, like a marathon? More time with family? A new career?  
 
Next, you must state the WHY behind each goal. Why do you want it? Will it make you a better person? Will it make you healthier, so you can live longer and spend more quality time with your children and grandchildren? Will financial freedom allow you to pursue your dreams of travel, send your children to the best universities, or allow you to fulfill your deepest desires for charitable giving? Will the reduction of stress allow you to focus on yourself and your family and your fitness? 
 
Then through a combination of visualizations and affirmations, what Joe Dispenza calls Mental Rehearsal, state each desire, and/or act them out in your mind’s eye with passion and emotion, a minimum of twice daily.  Visioning is more than just passively fantasizing about what you want. It is a type of mental and emotional workout that actually prepares you to experience and attract into your life what you want (and what are already available to you). 
 
How do visualizations and affirmations work?  
Visualizations and affirmations are actually methods of rewiring of your brain.  Your brain does not know the difference between a real event and an imagined event. In fact, through PET scans, brain researchers have found that the brain responds in a very similar manner to actual and imagined events.  Neural pathways are developed that reflect what is frequently impressed upon the brain, and synaptic connections are build and reinforced that support habitual trains of thought.  This is how new beliefs are created.  By experiencing a desire regularly through visualization, you actually create the neural infrastructure to support and process it in reality.  
 
In other words, you must first lay the groundwork for your success!  See it in your mind – Believe it – See it manifested in your life!
 
some tips: 
How to write and utilize affirmations. 
 
Coming soon: The Anatomy of Goal Setting.  How to ensure your success! 
 

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Responses

  1. This is a great article. You highlight some key areas that are crucial for one to create change and acheive their goals. I look forward to reading your next post on the specifics of goal setting.

    Cheers,
    Solly
    http://www.betweenyourears.ca

  2. Wonderful insights into the power of affirmations. Today I was wondering to myself about the times when my affirmations seem to fall short, and that when two or more people focus their energies on the same outcome and are clear, it seems to manifest more quickly. This inspired me to create an offshoot of my main blog, with an idea of how we can all join forces to help each other achieve our visions. Check it out over at http://unifestation.blogspot.com/

    Have a blessed day!

  3. JB,
    I love your concept. I firmly believe that energies combine and thus, affirmations and intentions can have a greater impact, leading to faster manifestation. I’ll put you on my blogroll, as I believe your blog can help others!
    Blessings,

    Jennifer


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